By Erika A. Bruckner
Clarks Summit University celebrated Commencement for the 88th and 89th graduating classes with five ceremonies from Thursday, April 29 through Saturday, May 1 in the Recreation Center on the Clarks Summit campus. More than 450 graduates included 283 students who have earned undergraduate degrees, 96 with master’s degrees and 74 with degrees at the master’s or doctoral level from Baptist Bible Seminary.
While many graduates reside in the Northeast Region of the US, international graduates included seven students from South Africa, and others from Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Germany, Hungary, Jamaica, Japan, Romania, Russia, Togo and the United Kingdom.
The graduates were celebrated in five ceremonies, so the university could meet distancing and occupancy requirements set by the Commonwealth of PA for the safety and health of graduates and their guests. Although Covid-19 resulted in a postponed ceremony last year, all of the members of the class of 2020 were invited to participate in the ceremonies this year. The five ceremonies were grouped by areas of study.
Russell H. Phelps, CSU’s longest-serving member of the Board of Trustees and trustee emeritus, was awarded an honorary doctorate on Friday, April 30 at the 4 p.m. ceremony. The 103-year-old Binghamton, NY, native served on the board for more than 60 years. CSU’s Phelps Student Center was named after him in 2001. Phelps is one of only 17 people who have received honorary doctorates from CSU since the school’s founding in 1932.
This year’s Commencement address for all five ceremonies was given by Theodore (Ted) Boykin, CSU’s vice president for student development and longtime resident director. He has taught at CSU for 30 years, holds degrees in ministry and counseling, and he is known for his decades of student mentorship.
In his address, “How will they know unless you go?” he focused on Romans 10:14-15, challenging students to take the “saving and life-changing good news about Jesus Christ” with them to share as they serve in careers around the world. He said, “These unique times in which we live, we have been counted worthy to live through these days …You and I have been chosen by God to represent Him in these days…We really don’t know whether our plan is going to work out the way we want it to or not. What we do know is, we have a faithful God. And He’s committed to us a faithful message, that began all the way back at the beginning. When God promised in Genesis 3 that there would come a seed of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent. We know that faithful message came on down through history… and that’s the message the report that the Messiah had come and He brought life—that’s the message that we proclaim.”
Members of the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 also addressed the audience at various ceremonies.
Ryan Minner, a New Castle, DE, native and Secondary Education major said, “I’ve never experienced a greater joy than following after the Lord alongside my brothers and sisters here. That’s what life is. Following whole heartily after our Savior. I think that’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned here at CSU.”
Hannah Scarborough, an Accelerated Counseling major from Basom, NY, advised fellow graduates: “If Covid has taught us anything over the past year, it has been that people long for, and need community in their lives. As you go to different places around the country and possibly world, remember to build community where you are. Not only for yourself, but for those around you too. CSU is a place that has fostered this in students.”
Julie Everhart, of Newfield, NY, earned her Master of Science in Counseling. She encouraged the audience to “not lose sight of who God is and the lead role He desires to have in your life. If we just TRUST Him to lead you because walking in His steps, He will lead you to things beyond your wildest imagination. It does not mean life will always be easy, but it does mean life will be FULL of joy knowing that you get to enjoy this beautiful ride of life that God has laid out for you.”
John Vo, Westminster, CA, earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Baptist Bible Seminary. He said, “God has used Baptist Bible Seminary in more ways than I ever could imagine. He used every single class to challenge my preconceived notions, expanded my mind through academic rigor, and ultimately drew me closer to the context of Scripture and its authorial intent.”
Faculty members gave the invocation at the different ceremonies: Kenneth Pyne, D.Min.; David Lackey, Ed.D., D.Min.; Keith Marlett, Ph.D.; David Ober, Ph.D., and Susan Cagley, M.A. Faculty members also read Scripture from Romans 10:8-15, which speaks of the beauty of those who preach the good news of Christ and that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The faculty members who read the passage were Kenneth Gardoski, Ph.D.; Janet Hicks, Ed.D.; Heather Fornes, Ph.D., NCC, LPC; Sherrie Holloway, M.A., M.Ed., and Rachel Menin, M.Ed., M.F.A.
Vice President for Academics, William Higley, Ph.D., presented candidates. CSU’s 10th President, James Lytle, D.Min., conferred degrees.
The deans of academic departments provided closing remarks. Wayne Slusser, Ph.D., spoke to Baptist Bible Seminary graduates in master’s and doctoral programs. Lynelle Buchanan, Ph.D., NCC, LPC, dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences, spoke at the ceremony for graduates in counseling and criminal justice programs. Janet Hicks, Ed.D., dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, addressed undergraduate majors in math and sciences, business and entrepreneurship. Rich Kelley, D.Ed., dean of the School of Education, addressed graduates of education programs, communications and worship studies.
Faculty members followed with prayers of dedication: Mark McGinniss, Ph.D.; Dwight Peterson, D.Min.; James Buchanan, M.Div.; Robert Plantz, M.S., and David Harris, D.M.A.